UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said “we have done it” after his Brexit bill was ratified by UK lawmakers. Five amendments were rejected, including provisions to reunite child refugees with families already in the UK.
The UK moved a step closer to its January 31 exit date from the European Union on Wednesday when the final Brexit legislation was ratified by the Houses of Parliament.
The bill will officially become law when it receives Royal Assent from Queen Elizabeth II, which could happen as early as Thursday.
“At times it felt like we would never cross the Brexit finish line, but we’ve done it,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement.
Earlier on Wednesday, the lower house of parliament, the House of Commons overturned changes the upper house, the House of Lords, had made to the legislation, including a clause to ensure protections for child refugees after Brexit.
The Lords could have sought to reinstate the changes, but decided not to, allowing the legislation to clear its final parliamentary hurdle in the UK. There will be a consent vote in the EU parliament on January 29.
MPs vote against refugee children being reunited with families
The House of Commons effectively stripped the Withdrawal Agreement Bill — which dictates the terms of the UK’s exit from the EU — of five amendments.
Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said the reunification of refugee children in EU member states with family members already in the UK was “ultimately a matter which must be negotiated with the EU, and the government is committed to seeking the best possible outcome in those negotiations.”
Another amendment included registering the 3.6 million EU citizens living in the UK, which would have provided documents to ensure continuity of their residence in the country. However, that amendment was removed from the bill.
In 2018, then-Prime Minister Theresa May pledged that, even in the event of Brexit, London would allow unaccompanied refugee children to be reunited with their parents in the UK.
The latest developments in the House of Commons have triggered anger from opposition lawmakers, with some accusing the ruling Conservatives of going back on their promises.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Conservative government are planning to “betray the commitments that have been made to the most vulnerable children of all,” said Labour lawmaker Yvette Cooper.
ed,ls/se (Reuters, AP)